DEATH TO VANDHEER LORDE
Whoops. Sorry. Bit of an outburst there. It's relevant to this review, however, because that's exactly what you want to do in Culmination: beat the crap out of some shadowy dude called Vandheer Lorde.
I've pretty much explained the premise behind Culmination already, but I'll be a bit more in-depth here. You play somebody more or less known as Lone Warrior, a man with a purpose: to kill a demented, power-hungry lord named Vandheer Lorde. The rest of the story may be explained in the rest of the Armed With Wings series, which I haven't played, but you get the overall idea regardless of background filler. Kill Vandheer Lorde.
How do you accomplish this feat? One sword, two swift legs and a slew of crazy combat moves, that's how. Culmination is a side-scrolling platformer that puts you in the shoes of a powerful samurai who gets more and more powerful the more he smashes the crap out of his monstrous foes. Running and jumping your way through monochrome environments you engage in battle with all manner of shadowy demons, and you need to slice through them with some very fancy sword-swinging attacks while avoiding their return swipes. That's Culmination in a nutshell.
Culmination requires absolute control over your character at all times. Little slips in judgement can get you killed really fast, especially on the game's Hard Mode, as the enemies are fairly ruthless - and can take quite a beating before they go under. Pinpoint control is a necessity.
And, for the most part, Culmination delivers. Your character will, on most occasions, go exactly where you want him to go. He doesn't ALWAYS seem to move flawlessly, though, and his tendency to drift on landings can result in some frustrating deaths. If you're going to fight, try to stay as far away from pits as possible, and don't underestimate the amount of ground you can cover while attacking.
I will add that Culmination is a little more complex than your average browser game, as you can potentially use A, S, W and D all in a single fight, depending on the buildup of your power meter. That said the simplicity of their implementation is perfect for a browser game rather than forcing the player to try and execute crazy move combinations, as might be the case in a console game.
Culmination's visuals are THE reason every browser gamer should try it at least once, because this game is damn beautiful. The environment is uniformly fantastic, with wonderful atmospheric effects that are only amplified by the greyscale colouring. For example:
Would you believe that's a browser game? I sure as hell wouldn't.
And the combat! My god, the combat! Culmination is straight out of the pages of sword-swinging anime, utilizing fluid, swift movements that put real life to shame. These screencaps don't really capture how good this game looks when you're in the midst of a fight.
My only problem? There's a lack of variety in the enemies. You'll face the same couple creatures over and over, with only slight variation as you progress. It's not a long game, though, so that's okay.
The music on Culmination is okay. It's action-packed without going overboard, and doesn't break the atmosphere established by the graphics. I especially enjoyed the menacing boss music near the end of the game, even if I didn't get to hear it too often.
Culmination isn't too difficult after you've gotten past the first few levels, as you'll quickly adapt to the controls. Your first fight will end badly; second, a bit better; third, you should get the gist of playing. The big challenge on the first play is getting used to your various moves... and not accidentally jumping into pits.
Then you play on Hard, and all that changes. The enemies will rend you. The challenge curve is pretty steep on Culmination when you move between modes, and most players won't be able to beat Hard (I know I couldn't). That said you don't HAVE to play all the way through the game again to play each of the Hard levels - you just won't get any trophies for artificially skipping ahead.
Culmination is a great game. It has a few little graphical problems, and the controls could use a little bit of tightening, but neither should hurt the experience too much. Give this beauty a ride if only to see these shadowy warriors in action.